Markey Releases Discussion Draft Bill on Wireless Surveillance
Draft bill will address increasing number of law enforcement requests for mobile phone data revealed by lawmaker's ongoing investigation
WASHINGTON, D.C. – As part of his ongoing investigation that revealed, for the first time, that upwards of 1.3 million requests were made last year by law enforcement for consumer mobile phone information, Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today released a discussion draft of the “Wireless Surveillance Act of 2012”. In July, Rep. Markey released responses to his inquires from nine major wireless carriers that showed a startling number of requests by law enforcement for consumers’ mobile phone data. This information included text messages, call records, geolocation, and cell phone tower “dumps”. The responses also revealed how the number of requests by law enforcement is increasing each year.
“The startling number of requests made for the personal information of mobile phone users strongly suggests that clear, consistent rules should be established to protect the privacy of innocent people,” said Rep. Markey, senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee and co-Chair of the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus.
“With searches and seizures now happening in cyberspace, this legislation will update the 4th amendment for the 21st century. I look forward to working with my colleagues on this critical legislation.”
A copy of Rep. Markey’s draft “Wireless Surveillance Act of 2012” can be found HERE.
Rep. Markey’s wireless surveillance draft legislation would::
- Require regular disclosures from law enforcement on the nature and volume of requests they make so the type of reporting provided to Rep. Markey's investigation becomes routine.
- Curb sweeping information requests such as cell tower “dumps” that capture information on a large group of mobile phone users at a particular period of time, and require that any request be more narrowly tailored, whenever possible.
- Require, in the case of emergency circumstances, a signed, sworn statement from law enforcement authorities after receipt of information from a carrier that justifies the need for the emergency access. This will establish needed accountability in these situations.
- Mandate creation of regulations by the Federal Communication’s Commission (FCC) to limit how long carriers can keep consumers’ personal information. Right now, no such standards exist.
- Require location tracking authorization only with a judge’s approval when there is probable cause to believe it will uncover evidence of a crime. This is the traditional standard for police to search individual homes. When police access location information, it is equally sensitive and personal and should be treated commensurately.
“The Wireless Surveillance Act would bring much needed transparency to a very murky area of surveillance law,” said Christopher Calabrese, ACLU legislative counsel. “We need more information and better controls for these requests – not only about whom they are targeting but how that information is being stored. We need to ensure that law enforcement no longer has carte blanche to track innocent Americans.”
Rep. Markey's letters to the wireless carriers and their responses can be found HERE. Rep. Markey, in an effort to determine current policies and practices related to the collection, handling, and disclosure of collected information, especially of innocent Americans, also has sent a letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) querying the agency about its current activities related to mobile phone surveillance. The Congressman is awaiting a response from DOJ.